Stepping into the aptly named Polycom Experience Center at One Penn Plaza in New York City is a two-fold treat. What strikes visitors first is a sweeping panoramic view of the city from 48 stories up, with the Empire State Building standing out in clear view from Polycom’s secondary lobby. The astounding view is rivaled only by the ideas and technology housed within the Experience Center. While much of this new technology won’t be revealed to the public until InfoComm in June (trust us, the wait will be worth it), Polycom’s Workplace of the Future event showcased a number of recently launched technologies alongside the yet-to-be-announced products we’ll tell you more about once InfoComm comes around.
Polycom’s Workplace of the Future event was meant as a thought-provoking look into the future of business as Polycom sees it, as well as the future of Polycom’s business. Industry leaders, press, and several Polycom customers were invited to New York City and a sister-site in London to learn what the workplace of the future is going to look like. Attendees were brought into a videoconferencing suite, mirrored in each site, with Polycom equipment capturing a two tiered seating section and relaying the feed to three display screens in the opposite location. Audio was crisp and clear and the resolution was so tight it almost felt like looking through a window. After a brief introduction, the presentation began.
In many ways the future, for Polycom, is linked to the past. Jeff Rodman, co-founder and CTO for Polycom, began with an overview of where the company came from and where it hopes to go. Starting with the triangular speakerphone almost twenty years ago, the main goal of the company has always been collaboration.
“With the evolution of the workplace there are opportunities for end users and Polycom itself to make collaboration easier and more transparent,” says Rodman.
The presentation then moved on to business, with several employees speaking about the future of the workplace. A survey conducted by Polycom revealed that 20 percent of the workforce works from home at least one day per week, 34 percent are freelance employees, and 70 percent of corporations surveyed plan to move to open office design. Meaning that the future of collaboration will focus on remote employees and open offices. There are three key areas Polycom focuses on: the work space, the experience, and the work flow.
Historically, the work space has moved from open space, to cubicles, to incorporating air travel, eventually to outsourcing employees, which evolved into cloud outsourcing. Where once we typically saw a majority of midsize meetings (10-15 employees), lately meetings have migrated outward to small, ad hoc meetings of 2-4 people or large, all-encompassing meetings for large groups of employees. Mobility is taking over the world, but there is still a problem of scale. Meanwhile, personal desktops are on the cusp of opening up to larger and more in-depth forms of collaboration. So the future of the workplace will need to incorporate good local and remote collaboration, solving the problems of lighting and acoustics for open office spaces, and also optimizing the mobile work force.
The goal is collaboration anywhere. This comes down to redefining the user experience; making technology more intuitive, always on and functioning, quality in terms of both product and experience, and making the experience strong across all devices. Collaborating naturally, without thinking about it. Taking technology out of the picture.
“The technology shouldn’t be in your way,” says Michael Frendo, executive vice president of engineering, “Technology should be paving the way for you.”
That’s what Polycom is trying to accomplish moving forward. They hope to transform business workflows through customization and integration. So the same type of system should be catered to work best for the company that purchased the system. This means making the system flexible, not bending the business practices to meet the system. The visual collaboration ecosystem is constantly evolving, with new companies rising up and old companies entering the space. To survive, these companies must engage in inclusion, gaining interoperability between products being the key.
At the end of the presentation we were introduced to several customers that have done some incredible work with Polycom products. The customers conferenced in from four separate remote locations, including New York and London.
Ed Spencer, Director of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, has used Polycom equipment to connect mental health establishments across the state with doctors remotely. The estimated savings from travel reduction have been upward of 30 million dollars. Veronica Southern, Clinical Consultant in Tele-healthcare Solutions in England, has outfitted nursing homes with collaboration technology. After training staff, clinicians can remotely engage in ‘tele-swallowing’ to check on the health of patients. The average time for a check-up has dropped from 90 minutes to 30 minutes thanks to eliminating travel. Christianne Orto, Dean of Distance Learning and Recording Arts, the first program of its kind in the U.S., uses Polycom products to connect performing professors out on the road with their students. This means no more missed lectures, and captured lectures to distribute over multiple states and countries. In fact, she shared a case study of an autistic student that was uncomfortable being instructed in person, but could handle the distance learning program.
Coming out of the Polycom’s event it is still unclear just what the workplace of the future will look like. It is clear, however, how it will function — remotely, everywhere at all times, and only through intuitive collaboration. As the world grows in population it grows smaller in connectivity. That’s due in no small part to companies like Polycom that are finding ways to connect us. I’m excited to see how they bring this vision to life moving forward, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated well into the future.